President Muhammadu Buhari and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Wednesday in Sochi, Russia, agreed to start new infrastructure projects and expand trade and investment, security and military cooperation.
At a bilateral meeting held on sidelines of ongoing Russia-Africa Summit, the two leaders agreed to put Nigeria-Russia relations on a fast track, and pursue the completion of partially completed and abandoned projects initiated by both countries.
Both leaders, in separate statements, said they would work together to improve efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, which is the backbone of the economy, in a way that would see to rehabilitation of epileptic oil refineries through establishment of framework for a joint venture between Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia-based leading oil company, Lukoil.
“Both NNPC and Lukoil would work towards prospection of oil in deep offshore.
“Nigeria and Russia also agreed to revive and solidify the venture between the NNPC and Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom for the development of Nigeria’s enormous gas potential and infrastructure.
“The issue of uncompleted and abandoned Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill was presented by President Buhari. His request for the return of Russia, on a government-to-government relationship for completion and commissioning of the plant was accepted by President Putin,” said a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
Earlier in the day, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, had a very fruitful discussion with his counterpart in Russia on Ajaokuta.
The Russia government agreed to support development of Nigeria’s rail infrastructure by constructing 1,400 kilometres track from Lagos to the South-south city of Calabar.
There was also discussion on the advancement of ongoing project for the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Nigeria. Putin said the next step in the implementation of the project should be the commencement of construction of a power plant.
On security and military cooperation, one that existed for fifty-nine years of Nigeria’s independence, Buhari agreed to renew Nigeria-Russia Military Technical Agreement that had lapsed within a short time, saying: “I have directed the Minister of Defence to work with the Ministry of Justice to conclude this matter within the shortest possible time.”
This military cooperation agreement is expected to give impetus to further cooperation in direct procurement of military hardware on a government-to-government basis at a lower cost as well as training of military personnel and modernisation of armed forces and renewal of infrastructure and equipment which President Putin promised to undertake.
On protracted issue of the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot-Abasi, Akwa-Ibom State, Buhari said he had asked the Ministry of Justice, “to submit a comprehensive report on the UC Russel (the Russian owners of the plant) matter…I want to assure you that the aim of our reforms is to ensure such investments are concluded and actualised in a professional and painless manner.”
The two Presidents also addressed partnership in education and agriculture. The Russia leader said they would give additional scholarships to Nigerians.
“We seek your government’s support especially in the areas of wheat production. Today, Nigeria produces less than one hundred thousand metric tons of wheat locally while our imports are projected to exceed five million tons in 2020.
“We therefore need your support to bridge the deficit which will create jobs and save our foreign exchange for other important areas like security, defence and infrastructure,” Buhari said.
On this, Putin promised to promote joint efforts, given his country’s ranking as the current number one wheat producer in the world.
“We can do a lot together,” Putin added.
The Russian President said Nigeria should take advantage of Russia’s potassium resources to advance Buhari’s local fertiliser production programme.
Putin promised his country’s support for the geological prospection of Nigeria’s solid minerals and gave assurances of working with Nigeria and other African countries to secure and stop the incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as they did in securing the Somali coastal areas.
Putin expressed further determination to secure Nigeria and the rest of Africa from terrorists. He told Buhari that 2,000 ex-ISIS terrorists joined Boko Haram last year.
In conclusion, Buhari said: “to move forward, may I suggest that our countries organise the fifth Joint Commission meeting to review and ratify all the agreements (about 40) contained in the Intergovernmental Nigeria-Russia Joint Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Protocol of November 11, 2016.”
Putin agreed to the proposal.
Both leaders emphasised the need for reform of United Nations Security Council. Buhari asked Russia to support Nigeria’s aspiration for a permanent membership of the council.
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